Religion and Violence in Japan
The Case of Aum Shinrikyo
This chapter investigates violent acts committed by the new religious movement Aum Shinrikyo during the 1980s and 1990s. Most studies portray Aum Shinrikyo’s development from the hindsight of the poison-gas attack, thereby suggesting that it was an internal and consequent process initiated in the very beginning and “necessarily” by its leader, Asahara Shoko, and his teachings. In contrast to such monocausal explanation attempts, the present study traces the internal (organizational and doctrinal) developments of the group in historical order and in their social context. It is the process of reciprocal interactions with contemporary society in Japan that triggered and accelerated the group’s violent potential.
Keywords: Aum Shinrikyo, Asahara Shoko, poison-gas attack, brainwashing, cognitive distancing, Armageddon, holy war, communication, internal and external, Buddhist precepts, celibacy, religious adolescence, mass media, Russia
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